Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Israel Matzav: Assad sees no need to listen

Assad sees no need to listen

The Washington Post editorializes over Syrian President Assad's behavior:

"If these reports turn out to be true, we are going to have to review the full range of tools that are available to us in order to make Syria reverse what would be an incendiary, provocative action," Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week, moments after making a strong pitch for the first U.S. ambassador in Damascus since 2005. Administration officials have suggested that the Scuds may not have reached Hezbollah in Lebanon; in that case the strong statements may be preventative. What is known for sure is that Syria has facilitated the transfer of thousands of rockets and missiles to Hezbollah since 2006 in blatant violation of the U.N. resolution that ended that summer's war in Lebanon. So why persist with the "engagement" policy? "President Assad is . . . making decisions that could send the region into war," was Mr. Feltman's answer. "He's listening to Ahmadinejad. He's listening to Hassan Nasrallah. He needs to listen to us, too."

That's a reasonable argument; we don't agree with Republicans who say the dispatch of Mr. Ford, a capable professional diplomat, would amount to a "reward" for Mr. Assad. Still, there has been no shortage of communication: Senior U.S. officials have summoned the senior Syrian envoy in Washington four times since Feb. 26 to talk about the weapons transfers to Hezbollah. What's been lacking are tangible steps by the administration to accompany more engagement with more pressure, such as more sanctions against Syrian officials and companies. The problem isn't that Mr. Assad is not getting the U.S. message. It's that he sees no need to listen.

Assad isn't going to listen any more to Robert Ford than he's listening to messages sent by the Obama administration now. Instead, he will embarrass Ford and the United States, while using Ford's presence in Damascus as a stepping stone to restoring his relations with Europe, all the while conceding nothing. The administration has no stronger tangible steps to take against Damascus short of war than keeping Ford home.

That's the one point the Washington Post didn't get: Ford should stay home.

Israel Matzav: Assad sees no need to listen

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